Oracle CEO slams Salesforce: 'They don't make any money'

Mark Hurd speakingOracleMark Hurd addressing the Oracle troops

Oracle and Salesforce executives are at each other’s throats again.

The two competitors, filled with flamboyant personalities, love to take shots at each other — and there’s often a grain of truth when they expose each other’s weaknesses.

This week the shots came from the CEOs.

Speaking at the Boston College Chief Executives Club, Oracle CEO Mark Hurd (who shares the CEO job with Safra Catz), blasted Salesforce, reports Greg Ryan and Craig Douglas at the San Francisco Times.

“The reason they have a very high earnings ratio is because they don’t make any money…. There’s no cash flow. So when you look for a category that says ‘cash flow multiplier,’ it says ‘n/a.’ What are they worth right now? $US35 billion? Who cares? It’s absurd. But they’re quote-unquote, ‘cool.’ And people ask me for real numbers, they ask, ‘Well, what’s your cash flow?’… What are we worth right now, $US190 billion, $US180, something like that? And we have to do it with real numbers. It’s crazy, just crazy.”

He’s not completely wrong. Investors were stoked in February when Salesforce released its year-end earnings, reaching $US5 billion in revenue with Benioff promising that that $US10 billion was just around the corner (with about $US9 billion under contract already). The stock hit a record high and has been floating along at near all-time highs ever since.

At the same time, Salesforce posted a -$US146 million loss from operations, largely due to the $US2.8 billion it spent last year on marketing and sales to acquire customers.

But Hurd is not completely right either. The company also said it delivered $US1.2 billion in operating cash flow in 2015, up 34% year-over-year. It’s just that the 15-year-old company is still acting like a startup, investing in itself like crazy.

Hurd’s slam followed a slight from Benioff on Wednesday when Salesforce was on stage with Box CEO Aaron Levie at Box’s big developer’s conference.

Benioff called the executives at his old employer, Oracle, “sensitive.”

“You don’t think of them as sensitive people, but their feelings are easily hurt,” Benioff said. “I have to apologise whenever I hurt their feelings.”

Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison delivers the keynote address during the annual Oracle OpenWorld conference on September 30, 2014 in San Francisco, California.GettyOracle co-founder Larry Ellison delivers the keynote address during the annual Oracle OpenWorld conference on September 30, 2014 in San Francisco, California..

We might be wrong, but we guess he’s referring to the things he said in February to Wall Street analysts. He picked on Oracle’s home-grown cloud computing service, called Oracle Fusion Applications, saying:

“They took ‘Fusion’ and turned it into ‘confusion.’ Oracle keeps saying they’re growing more quickly than anyone else in the cloud. Well, that’s very easy to do when you’re starting at zero.”

This prompted Oracle chairman and CTO Larry Ellison to slip a slam directly into the company’s earnings press release, saying Oracle’s cloud will sell as well or better than Salesforce’s this year.

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